Some time ago I wrote a blog post about how Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, which many High School students learn about as a foundational element of modern psychology, interacts and intersects with the Christian vision of spiritual formation. In short, Christianity calls us to look outside ourselves, to God, for ultimate fulfillment whereas humanism, embodied in Maslow’s Pyramid, calls us to look within ourselves. The cross calls us to a life of self-denial in pursuit of a greater good. Humanism calls us to a life of self-gratification, in pursuit of pleasure.
Maslow presents a Hierarchy of Human Motivation as a model for how we are motivated to achieve satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment. In this model human needs are fulfilled in the following order: (1) Physiological needs, (2) Safety needs, (3) Love needs, (4) Esteem Needs, and (5) The need for self-actualization. The individual who seeks to fulfill their needs in this order is generally seen as healthy. The one who deviates from this order, or is unable to fulfill any of these needs, might have a pathological illness.
There is quite a bit to unpack here (I made an initial attempt here) but in the following blog series I am going to limit myself to the following set of questions:
For each “need” in Maslow’s hierarchy…
(1) Creation: How did God design us to fulfill this need?
(2) Fall: How have we turned the fulfillment of this need into an idol?
(3) Redemption: How does the way of Jesus re-orient us and open us up to even greater fulfillment?
For the final installment I will present an alternative Pyramid of Needs as an ideal for human motivation.
This blog series, I confess, will be a bit heady. It’s a research project. But, I hope, it’s a research project that gives us a new lens by which to view our world around us and evaluate the prevailing messages of our culture.